ALL OUT TO CLEAN THE SEA: People clean spilled oil at Nantuo Fishing Port near Dalian on July 25. By July 26, most of the spilled oil caused by pipeline explosions on July 16 had been cleaned up (LIU DEBIN)
Fang Shaolan, from Huangshan City of central Anhui Province, arrived in northeast China's coastal Dalian City on July 27 for a vacation with seven family members. Before coming to Dalian, Fang heard from media reports that the spilled oil more than a week ago had been almost cleaned up and much of the sea near Dalian hadn't been polluted.
With beautiful scenery and many famous tourist attractions, Dalian is a very popular tourist destination. Summer is the peak time for the city's tourism industry. However, on July 16, two oil pipelines attached to an oil storage tank exploded at the Xingang Port, dumping 1,500 tons of crude oil into the waters off Dalian, greasing fears about the local environment and life.
On July 28, Fang and her family came to the beach at Xinghai Bay in downtown Dalian. Fang's husband and another male family member just came out of the sea. In the swimming area of the beach, they could see just a few small oil blobs, but they thought it didn't matter and their bodies were not stained with the oil. "At least at Xinghai Bay, visitors can feel at ease," they said.
But on July 22, there was some oil found in the east part of Xinghai Bay because of strong winds the previous day, said Li Xiaomin, Director of the General Office of Dalian Xinghai Bay Travel Service Co. Ltd., the management company of Xinghai Bay beach.
According to Li, before the pipeline explosion, the beach had a catcher to prevent trash from entering the swimming area. After finding oil on July 22, they used more than a ton of oil absorbent felts to absorb the slick. On July 24, they extended the trash catcher to 2,000 meters and since then, no oil has been found within the swimming area. On July 25, the number of tourists to Xinghai Bay reached 30,000. Li said that a ship is also on the sea of Xinghai Bay to closely monitor the slick.
"The government has announced that most of the oil spill has been cleaned up, so we feel confident now," Li said.
On July 28 at Fujiazhuang Park in downtown Dalian, another popular bathing beach among Dalian locals and tourists, the beach was packed with people and tents. The seawater was clear and the sand was clean.
"After the oil spill accident, the government adopted prompt and effective measures to control the spill and we have prepared oil absorbent felts. Defended by the oil barriers, no oil slick has been found within the swimming area of our beach," said Li Boyang, a staff member of Fujiazhuang Park. "Our park is not affected by the oil spill and people can swim here."
On July 31, Fujiazhuang Park and Xinghai Bay both received 60,000 visitors, and all the beaches of the city received more than 200,000 visitors on that day, which is almost the same as last year, said Yi Jun, Director of the Dalian Municipal Bureau of Tourism.
However, not all the beaches are as lucky. Golden Coast Beach at Jinshitan national holiday resort, which is 50 km away from downtown Dalian, is one of the affected beaches. No black oil could be seen on the sea or beach on July 29, but there were some blobs of oil in the seawater. The beach was open and some people were there, but no one swam in the sea and managing staff members dissuaded people from doing so.
A manager, surnamed Sun, of Golden Coast Beach told Beijing Review that after finding oil on the sea, they placed straw mats on the beach to prevent the oil from polluting it. In the polluted area, they used boats to clean up oil on the sea and sprayed oil dispersant to eliminate the oil on the beach.
SEA OF PEOPLE: Crowds of people swim at Fujiazhuang Park in Dalian on July 28. The park was not polluted by the oil spill on July 16 (WANG JUN)
"It is impossible that such an accident would impose no influence on Dalian's tourism industry, but 10 days after the accident, the city's tourism industry is not noticeably affected," said Yi on July 31.
According to Yi, they have invited visitors to Dalian to see the real situation in the city. "We are trying to make the fluctuation of the tourism market minimal," Yi said.
The director's words were confirmed by industrial insiders. According to Sun Yuanba, Assistant General Manager and Director of Sales and Marketing of the Furama Hotel Dalian, over the first weekend after the explosion the booking rate declined to 70 percent from 98.7 percent of the previous weekend, but on the weekend of July 30-31, the rate recovered to 90 percent. Furama Hotel Dalian is the first five-star hotel in northeast China.